A custody proceeding can be one of the most stressful topics in the courtroom arena. This kind of proceeding is not like a criminal proceeding where it affects your life, but rather your child’s life and the future role you will play in your child's life. However, this is not the kind of proceeding that you can procrastinate to prepare for till an alarm goes off in your head telling you that you should probably hire an attorney.
When you first receive a custody hearing notice in your mail, many thoughts go off in your head: Will I lose my children? How do I not lose my children? Did I do anything wrong for this to happen? These are all natural reactions which can be extremely daunting. When you are in a state of panic, your first thought may not necessarily be to call a lawyer. However, if you take a deep breath and collect your thoughts, calling a lawyer after you receive that notice will be the best decision you make that day.
The scheduled date for a custody hearing will be a least a few weeks from the date you received notice in the mail. If you call an attorney well in advanced, then this gives you time to meet with the attorney and discuss a strategy. Additionally, an attorney is able to provide services that you would not be able to provide for yourself. One of the services that the attorney can provide is filing for a continuance which can be accomplished in a day. If a judge grants a continuance, the original date for your custody hearing will be pushed to a later date in the future which will give you more time to prepare. Also, your attorney will be able to consult with the opposing attorney. When attorneys consult, they have the ability to negotiate terms and conditions. These negotiations may not even make a custody hearing necessary.
However, when you receive the custody hearing notice in the mail, and you do not take a deep breath and realize that the situation is still in your control, the situation will inevitably become more complicated. The longer you wait to hire an attorney, the more your retainer could increase. And I am not talking about a couple of hundred dollars, I am talking about a couple of thousand dollars if you really wait till the last minute. Additionally, the longer you wait to hire an attorney, the less time counsel has to negotiate with the opposing attorney, file necessary court documents, and make this difficult time as least stressful for you as possible.
The moral of the story is that when you receive that notice in the mail from the courthouse, take a deep breath, realize the situation is still in your control, and then pick up the phone and let the lawyer guide you.
By Jacquie L. Jones
Join us on a journey of discovery as we explore issues of custody, criminality, and Probate especially in Delaware County, PA.